LED Water Wheel Display Is Dekatron-tastic!


Sometimes, it’s the simple things that mesmerize. [JohnS_AZ] has created a simple dekatron style LED ring, but we can’t seem to stop watching his video. [John's] LED ring began as a visual indicator for his Hackaday Prize entry, a water consumption display. Judging by his website, [John] is a bit of a display nut. Nixie tubes and huge clocks feature prominently.

We’ve seen plenty of LED projects using the trusty 74xx595 8-bit shift register. [John] personally isn’t a fan, as the entire chip is only rated to drive about 50mA. While hackers routinely push the chip several times past this limit, [John] found a chip designed for the task in the Texas Instruments TLC59282 16 channel constant current LED driver. (PDF link) While more expensive than the ‘595, the 59282 makes life much easier. Only one resistor is needed at the chip’s current sense pin, rather than a current-limiting resistor for each LED. The 59282 also provides a blank input, which is perfect for driving with PWM.

[John] designed a simple PCB with a the 59282 driving a ring of 16 LEDs. While he waited for the boards to come in, he wrote some test code for a Microchip PIC16F1509. [John's] code is not optimized, but that makes it easy to see exactly which bit patterns he’s writing to the LEDs. It all makes for a great demo, and reminds us of those old Dekatron tubes.
It’s the demo video that makes this project. Click past the break and give it a watch. After several long days of judging entries, a really nice LED ring might be just what the doctor ordered.

[Read more...]

Make Your Own UV Exposure Box For PCB Manufacture At Home

UV exposure box

[Shane] needed a UV exposure box to help speed up the process of making PCB’s at home. Not wanting to spend a few hundred on one, he decided to design and build his own, using a planter box!

Why a planter box? To be honest, it was simply the first opaque container [Shane] found, so he decided to base the design around it. Inside the planter box are two 15W fluorescent daytime bulbs which output a similar amount of UV to normal sunlight. A mirror is placed below them to help reflect all the useful light out of the box. A pane of glass was cut to fit on top of the planter box, giving you a nice surface to place curing PCB’s on.

All in all, it’s a pretty simple and inexpensive method to make your own UV exposure box. We’ve also seen it done before using UV LEDs and IKEA picture frames — just make sure you don’t start tanning your hands while you’re working!

Foosball Now Part of the Internet of Things

internet of things foosball

At a local LAN event, [Thomas] wanted a way to easily show off the capabilities from some of the Internet-of-Things devices everyone keeps talking about. His idea was to build an internet-connected foosball/table soccer/table football table to show off some hardware and software.

[Thomas]‘s table automates almost everything that is part of the great sport of foosball. Once a user logs in using the barcode scanner, the game begins by deploying the tiny ball with parts salvaged from a Roomba. The table uses infrared sensors to detect the ball. Once a goal is scored, it is posted online where anyone can see the current score and a history of all of the games played on the table.

There are a few other unique touches on the foosball table, such as the LED lighting, touch screen displays, and an STM32-E407 ARM processor to tie the whole machine together.

For more information including the source code and demonstrations, check out [Thomas]‘s project blog. And, if you get lonely, perhaps you can try the robot foosball player!

Gemma-Powered NeoPixel Sound Reactive Drums


This tutorial from Adafruit shows how to create a custom interactive drum set that lights up with sound. It uses a mic amp sensor that is connected to a miniature Arduino Gemma board to detect when the instrument is being hit by the sticks. Neopixels then illuminate into a range of colors creating a beautifully synced up music presentation.

The container that houses the electronics is 3D printed. The entire circuit is integrated into the snare, mid-tom, hi-tom and a drum kick. All the code and step-by-step instructions can be found on Adafruit’s website. Now imagine something like this being packed up in a suitcase and carried from venue to venue as an up-and-coming band travels from state to state on tour; especially at Drum n’ Bass raves or electronic based music festivals. A video of the kit being used is below.

[Read more...]

New Chip Alert: The ESP8266 WiFi Module (It’s $5)


Every so often we run across something in the Hackaday tip line that sends us scurrying to Google, trying to source a component, part, or assembly. The ESP8266 WiFi module is the latest, made interesting because it pretty much doesn’t exist outside China.

Why is it cool? It’s a WiFi module with an SOC, making it somewhat similar to TI’s CC300 in conception (A.K.A. the thing that makes the Spark Core so appealing), in that a microcontroller on the module takes care of all the WiFi, TCP/IP stack, and the overhead found in an 802.11 network. It’s addressable over SPI and UART, making this an exceptionally easy choice for anyone wanting to build an Internet of Things thing; you can simply connect any microcontroller to this module and start pushing data up to the Internet. Oh, it’s also being sold for $5 in quantity one. Yes, for five dollars you can blink a LED from the Internet. That’s about half the price as the CC3000 itself, and a quarter of the price if you were to build a CC3000 breakout board.

There’s a catch, right, there’s always a catch. Yep. About two hours after this post is published it will be the number one English language Google result for “ESP8266.” As far as the English-speaking world is concerned, there is absolutely nothing to be found anywhere on the Internet on this module.

Seeed Studio recently sold a few of these modules for $7 and has some documentation, including a full datasheet and an AT command set. All the documentation is in Chinese. There’s also an “ESP8266 IoT SDK”, but from a quick glance at the code, this appears to be an SDK for the SOC on the module, not a simple way to connect the module to a microcontroller.

Anyone wanting to grab one of these modules can do so on Ali Express. Anyone wanting to do something with one of these modules will have a much more difficult time, most likely poking and prodding bits randomly with the help of Google translate. Should someone, or even a group of people, want to take up the task of creating a translation of the datasheet and possibly a library, we have a pretty collaborative project hosting site where you can do that. You may organize in the comments below; we’ll also be taking bets as to when a product using the ESP8266 will be found on Kickstarter. My guess is under a month.

Thanks [Liam] for the tip.

ARM-BMW, The Open Hardware Cortex-M0 Development Board

[Vsergeev] tipped us about a neat Cortex-M0 based development board with a total BoM cost under $15. It’s called the ARM Bare Metal Widget (ARM-BMW), focuses on battery power, non-volatile storage and debuggability.

The chosen micro-controller is the 50MHz NXP LPC1114DH28 which provides the user with 32kB of Flash, 8kB of SRAM, a 6 channel ADC and I2C/SPI/UART interfaces among others. The ARM-BMW contains a 2Mbyte SPI flash, an I2C I/O expander, several headers for expansion/debug purposes, 4 LEDs, 2 buttons, 2 DIP switches and finally a JTAG/SWD header for flashing and debugging. As you can see in the picture above you may either populate your own HC49UP crystal or use the internal 12MHz RC oscillator.

The platform can be powered using either a USB cable or a LiPo battery. As you can guess it also includes a much-needed battery charger (the MCP73831T) and a switched capacitor DC/DC converter to supply 3.3V. You may find all the files on the hardware or software repositories.

Retrotechtacular: Turn On the Magic of Colored Light

title cardChances are, you take color for granted. Whether or not you give it much thought, color is key to distinguishing your surroundings. It helps you identify fire, brown recluse spiders, and the right resistor for the job.

In the spotlight this week is a 1950s educational film called “This is Color“. It also happens to be a delightful time capsule of consumer packaging from the atomic age. This film was made by the Interchemical Corporation, an industrial research lab and manufacturer of printing inks. As the narrator explains, consistent replication of pigments is an essential part of mass production. In order to conjure a particular pigment in the first place, one must first understand the nature of color and the physical properties of visible light.

electromagnetic spectrumEach color that makes up the spectrum of visible rays has a particular wavelength. The five principal colors—red, yellow, green, blue, and violet—make possible thousands of shades and hues, but are only a small slice of the electromagnetic spectrum.

When light encounters a transparent material more dense than air, such as water or glass, it has to change direction and is bent by the surface. This is known as refraction. A straw placed in a glass of water will appear bent below the surface because the air and the water have different refractive indices. That is, the air and water will bend or refract different percentages of the light that permeates them. [Read more...]


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